On the third day, I had 2.5 hours to visit the city before heading to the airport.
While my colleagues were visiting local markets, I decided to go to Vatican City.
Initially, I arrived before 9am to queue up for Vatican museum. However, after doing a bit more research on the internet, I realised its not worth of spending only 2 hours there. Instead I went to the open ground and St Peter’s Basilica for a short work.
After seeing magnificent marble sculpture, the Pietà, made by Michelangelo Buonarroti.
My memory of the Basilica fleshed back when. I decided to buy a post card and sent it back to home as a souvenir for myself.
Newly Wed Couples
Coincidentally, there were civil wedding going on, and I asked many newly wed couples for photos. They were all very generous to give me nice poses for photo shooting.
Afterward, I walked passed Castel Sant'Angelo, and stopper over an Art museum, Chiostro del Bramante, for quick lunch and coffee. Then I went to Trevi Fountain on my way back to the hotel.
No doubt I would be happy to revisit this ancient city again!
After the training, my colleague and I went out to wondering around a bit in separate ways before meeting up for dinner.
As the time was limited and already after sunset, I rushed to the Pantheon which is the best-preserved ancient Roman building in Rome back in 125 A.D.
The building block outside somehow looked a bit unsymmetrical, however once I step inside, I was impressed with the openness of the hall area and the magnificent dome. Apparently, it was the biggest unreinforced concrete dome in the entire world.
My heart was very touched to see the famous Renaissance painter, Raphael buried inside.
Spimar | Gelateria Della Palma
I then rushed to a local shop called Spimar Cappelli Sciarpe e Accessori Moda. I bought a very classy look blue hat. I spotted the item the night before but couldn’t make up my mind till the second night after wondered around a few shops. I then looked for a pair of leather gloves and small coin bags for souvenir and tried the gelateria at Gelateria Della Palma
La Botte Antica
After shopping, my colleague and I met up and we walked to Hotel Hassler Roma. We were thinking to go for a drink there but can feel the hotel was very upper end and did not welcome us for drinks only. Then we wondered to a church called Trinità dei Monti. As it was nearly Christmas time, there were a children’s choir singing beautiful Christmas chorus. The church located at a the hill with nice view.
we finished the evening with dining at a local restaurant called La Botte Antica for dinner. It was recommend by the hotel staff. I tried the lobster spaghetti. The restaurant was very cosy.
The first time I visited Rome was back to my research days almost 20 years ago. I went to Venice to present my book chapter in a conference and stayed over in Rome for a few days. I remembered the city was dirty, food for tourist such as pizza was cold and hard, and loads of people tried to sell us worthless souvenir outside colosseum.
However, when I had the opportunity to revise the city with my colleagues for training during lDecember 2019 , my impression of the city had changed a lot!
Trevi Collection Hotel
We jetted off to Rome on 16th Dec and arrived in the afternoon and checked in at a budget hotel called Hotel Trevi.
The staff were overwhelmingly welcoming and kept telling us what to do around the area but all we want was some food to fill in our stomach. So straight away we went to wonder around the Spanish steps.
I was craving for my espresso and cheese cake for afternoon retreat while my colleagues were craving for wine and pizza.
Ristorante Atelier Canova Tadolini
After a short stop to a small cafe, we moved on and visited another small cafe right next to the church. We were surrounded by sculptures and I felt a bit guilty to drink wine in an environment like this. The glass of wine came with load of breads and made me wonder how I am going to feed more food for dinner.
But after wondering around a bit, we had lovely Italian wine and fish for dinner at Ristorante Da Edy
This October, I had the opportunity to joint my colleague from UK and visited my PMO team members in India. I was very excited but also nervous through the whole month before my trip. I was nervous because I remembered that almost every colleague of my from Australia who used to visit India can get sick on the first day, then stay in the hotel most of time and came back at the end of one week.
On the other hand, I was keen to see the country and experience myself what the country is like. Here is a summary of my personal Myth about India. I landed at New Delhi and visited our Gurgan and Kolkata offices.
It was an exciting opportunity for team building. India is so big geographically, so some my of local colleagues even haven’t seen each other for four years and took the opportunity to catch up while I was there.
One the very last day on Saturday, my UK colleague and I went to Taj Mahal to end our trip.
There are some of my personal Myth I would like to share.
Myth #1- Brush your teeth with bottle water and never drink tap water
Before the trip: I never brush my teeth with bottle water in my life before. I was so worry what if I rinse my teeth during shower incidentally? Will I get sick?
My colleague to me just don’t think about it but just make sure I use the bottle water.
So before my trip, I worked out that I shall wash my face before having shower. In this way, it will reduce my chance of rinsing my teeth with tap water. But… what about when I need to wash my hair?
During my trip: Wow, the hotel room has a Toto bidet toilet system! I missed the bidet system so much after relocating from Tokyo to London! Wait! The tap water looks very clean to me! It was even more clear than the water in London. The bathtub was so lovely and it was much better than the one in my flat back in London.
But there is also a bottle of water right next to the toilet basin. I suppose its common for the guest to use the bottle of water for brushing their teeth.
My first intuition when I arrived is that I want my tummy to get use to the local water. Therefore I risk a bit by putting tap water to the boiler and made myself a cup of tea. I was fine afterwards.
Myth #2- Toilets hygiene may be a concern
During my trip: I noticed when I arrived at the air port, although the toliet was not new, there was a cleaner who even wiped toilet floor under the basin.
The hotel toilets were clean excepted that I did complaint about the hotel bathroom in Kolkata was not clean unto my standard when I first check in.
In our office, similarly, the toilet was clean because there is always someone doing the cleaning job. However, the toilet system used yellowish recycle water to flash the toilet.
During my trip on Saturday, we sticked to tourist spot and used the petrol stop toilets. They were still acceptable comparing with other places I had been such as Malaysia. We survived with a four hours one way journey from Gurgaon to Taj Mahal with several toilet breaks in between.
Myth #3- only eat cooked food and never eat ice. Most of food are spicy if its dark colour
Before the trip: I was thinking I need to give up ice cream and mango lassie
During the trip: My local colleague took me to try India dessert.
My eyes were wide open. There are so many selections such as addo, Gulab jamun (deep fired ball), buffi, and Kulfi (ice cream)
I worked it out most of them are made by flour and milk with different taste. I had to try a bite each.
I was not a big fan of Gulab jamun, but I loved pista barfi (with ground pistachios) very much! I also like India ice cream, Kulfi, which I can taste the condense milk. I ignored the advise I got from the nurse in UK, I tasted all kinds of desserts and shared with my local colleagues.
I also loved yogurt very much especially in Gurgaon. I was told that yogurt tasted better in the north where as dessert tasted better in Kolkata. It was very true.
In Kolkata, we tried lamb dish. It looks very dark to me, but actually it was not spicy at all. Its alway important to follow India’s wisdom by having a colourful after meal refresher called Mukhwas and a leave covered snack called Pan. They would help with digesting the food after a heavy meal.
Pan might be a bit overwhelming when you first try, but it tasted fine after second time.
Myth #4- Food and cloth are very cheap in India.
The first morning after we landed in New Delhi, we checked in the hotel for a short break and moved to the office straight away. I tried the food at our canteen. The price of each dish was around 70-120 India Rupee. To me this is kind of similar to the lunch box costed in Taiwan. However, the rest of the week, I also tried the company subsided canteen food; it cost only 40 and 20 India Rupee per dish in our Gurgoun office and Kolkata office respectively.
PS. My tummy did feel a bit funny after the next day when I had canteen food. Especially on Saturday after almost a week. I was ok when I sat in the car but felt painful in my tummy through the morning whenever I am walking.
As for street shopping, if you go for tourist spots even with bargaining, I didn’t feel it was cheap enough comparing with Taiwan. Even my local colleagues
were trying to help me to bargain in New Delhi. But is a fun to expereince the bargaining.
The goods were more reasonable priced when my colleague took me to local shopping mall in Kolkata. There are some fixed priced shops where I can get quality cotton made table cloth and india style clothes without the need to bargain. I was also very attempted to buy Saris but the shop did not accept credit card payment over 35 pounds. Therefore I decide to leave it as I hate to borrow cash from my colleague and I would hardly have the chance to wear it anyway.
Myth #5- traffic jam and noisy street is common
Before the trip: my colleague told me always buffer sufficient time for your travel as traffic jam part of daily life even the travel distance may look short. My son also learned from the internet that its not easy to go across the street just like being in China.
During the trip: when I first arrived, I was so shocked with the driver that they use horn all the time. Even there are 5 lanes one way, the drivers will use it like 7-10 lanes. But the second day I got used to the noise anyway.
We tried to do two U-turns in Gurgaon and it took 15-20 minutes at least each time. This is such a stressful thing to drive in this country. I can never do it.
My goodness, there is no seatbelt at the back seat of Uber even for premier Uber cars. Therefore, its highly recommended to rent hotel car with a driver when we plan our personal trip on Saturday.
As for going across the street, it was a big challenge for me. My colleague recommended me that I shall drop by Victoria Memorial in Kolkata before checking out the hotel on Friday morning. I dropped by the garden area and it was very pleasant as he told me. I then thought I want to walk to St Paul across the road before going back to the hotel. Believe it or not it took me 15-20 mins just trying to get to the other side of the street. There are people jump in and out of the bus plus loads of cars passing by to block your view. By the way, the local tourists not only liked to take selfies, they loved to ask foreigners to take photo with them.
Myth #6- You can afford helpers if you live in India
My local colleague has three helper at home so its true if you are a professional and live in India you can offer this too. His wife has a doctor in economics degree and is also working. Therefore they hired three helpers- one as a chaifur for driving, one as a maid for cooking and cleaning and one as a nanny for looking after the kids. Sounds very similar to the life style in Indonesia to me!
Myth #7: Taj Mahal is the must visited place in India as its one of the world’s
Seven wonder .
To go or not to go that was the question.
As we were staying in Gurgaon, it was easier to take a private car with driver to Taj Mahal than taking the train.
Between my colleague and myself we paid 17000 India Rupee for a private day trip to Agra with a local tour guide. It you go by taxi its only around 3800 one way. But I wanted the flexibility to wake up 6:30am in the morning for breakfast and to stop when ever we felt like. If its not because we had a long day and can’t get back to hotel till after 9pm on Friday, it would be nice to travel to Taj Mahal on Friday night and stay over to see sun rise the next morning.
The tour guide spent a lot of time to explain the decorative element of the Taj. You can see marble screen with an inlaid chrysanthemum, floral sprays carved on the marble, inlaid calligraphy in black marble and different flowers such as the tulips, lily, iris poppy and narcissus as sparer or in arabesques patterns. I love the Pietra Dura carved floral designs inlaid with precious stones over the white marble surface. It reminds me Chinese traditional furniture back to my childhood in Taiwan.
We also stopped by Agra Fort. Its imposing red sandstone ramparts from a present along the river front. The structure was so grand that my camera was not able to take the whole are into the picture.
I am glad to end our trip with one of the seven wonder of the world!
This week I had the opportunity to attend two full day workshop and took a 90 mins stroll around the historic heart of the capital, Old Madrid on Friday early morning before heading to airport flight.
My overall impression of the city was just incredible!
Before visiting Madrid, I was a bit concerned about the safety side of traveling alone. But on the first evening on my way to the to the hotel, I had changed my impressions completely.
Firstly I was in loved with the old Madrid where there are many charming buildings and stone alleys to walk around.
Even my flight was delayed, I managed to do some work and then visited Museo del Prado for an hour. The museum offer free entry two hours before closure each date. I was so impressed with the fabulous painting collection back in 12th century to 19 centuries. It’s a good opportunity to see the worlds greatest assembly of famous Spanish painters art works such as Goya. The museums also has vast collection of Italian paintings such as Raphael, Giordano and Tiepolo. I can tell some locals just drop by to appreciate the art. One man was trying to explain me a religious character of a Saint in painting in Spanish. I can feel his passions about the painting even I cannot understand Spanish at all.
One the top floor I saw an incredible Mermaid gold covered deco piece.
I had visited an old restaurant called Taberna Antonio Sanchez, named after a matador from 1870. His son also became a bullfighter but after a serious goring he retired to run the bar and his victims and pairings adorn the walls. Although I couldn’t understand the me, the waiter was very professional to give me suggestions with Muga red wine, Rabo de toro (Oxtail) for main dish.
The first night after the workshop, we had a team building to play escape game for 90 minutes the following by late dinner from 9:30pm at a nice high ceiling building called Casa Paulino. We had Jamon Serrano which is a salt cured hand dried in mountain air for tapas.
The second night of workshop I got support with my colleague to get into internal tools understanding and finished work late. I visited the market quickly at 9:30pm . It was full of great fresh tapas at very good price like 1.5 euro per piece and wine. However being a tourist with my laptop alone, for safety reason, I decided to walk back hotel first. I then had very dinner just next to my hotel building after 10:15pm. But still it seemed like that the night just got started.
Finally date I waked up at 6 pm to do a quick walk around in the city before starting work meetings for the day and catching up noon flight.
I walked passed a Catholic Church called Cathedral Church of the Amred Forces, then to St Mary Royal of Almudena, Palacio Real, Monument a Cervantes. I then took metro to Solo station and continuing walking to circulation de Bellas Aries, Westin, Palacio de Cibekes Centrocentro, Puerta de Alcala. I was planning to visit Rize hotel, but unfortunately it was under renovation. The facts that most place open after 10 am which made my life easier for no chance to visit inside but just walk through the town to enjoy the architecture of the grande buildings.
Back to the hotel for packing and heading off the airport and glad to have a safe, fullillment workshop and short visit to Madrid.
Overall, I love the city.
20th Century Impressionist and Modern Art- Private viewing by Christie’s
This evening was my great pleasure to be invited by Christie's private viewing Impressionist and Modern Art event at Taittinger reception.
Impressionist is always my favorite period of arts in my life.
Most time while visiting the gallery or museum , I seldom seen the price tag attached the piece of art work.
However tonight there are many impressive pieces of work associated with an expecting price tag. After a few glass of champaign and vodka, I must admit I need to be careful not to pull over the drink over these master pieces.
Here are some of my favourites of the evening.
From Van Gogh, Matisse, Renoir to Picasso, my favorite however was Giovanni Boldini's Portrait of Madame Roger-Jourdain.
I am in loved with her beautiful eyes and exquisite post for the portrait.